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Some spoilers for Olympics-related quests in AC:Odyssey

Butch:

Nothing. Please say you played.

Feminina:

Obviously I played. What you should really be saying is “please say you played something that I also played.” I could have played for 15 hours straight just cleaning up question marks in Attika or something, and would that make you happy? Noooooooo.

Anyway, I talked to the kings, got their quests, got Testikles’ special oil (I feel bad about that slave I had to pressure into giving me the recipe, I should go back there and see if she’s OK), took Testikles to Olympos, and got him eaten by a shark. Good times! Now, obviously, I’ll have to fill in for him.

Then before heading to Olympos I did the blue quest about the village where they worship me, and the one about Thespis and the actors. I tried playing it the way he wrote it, even though I knew the lines were all wrong, because he’s the professional and he doesn’t try to tell me how to assassinate, but it didn’t go over very well. Nevertheless, we all escaped with our lives. Good times.

It was also interesting to see how Kassandra handles being treated as a literal god. I was modest about it and in the end gave a rousing speech about how “I’m not a god, you need to find strength inside your own hearts” or whatever. They seemed to like that OK.

So yeah. I got some stuff done.

Butch:

AH PHEW!

You’re ahead of me, or very close to me storywise (we’ll ignore Medusa) cuz the very next thing I’m doing is wrapping up the “You’re a god” quest. I did the three things. Off to the priestess.

So…see what I mean about tonal shift? We finally get to Sparta. There’s wars on. There’s reclaiming family honor. There’s cutscenes. Shit’s MOVING man! And the very next thing is….Testikles.

Now, I’m not down on the Testikles thing (for the most part, more on that in a second) in a vacuum. I like a witty quest as much, if not more, than anyone. This had its laughs in it (“I could KISS you!” “No…you couldn’t.”), and twists (the long, slow take they did when he got eaten was priceless), but why HERE? Why now? Why did they decide this, after all this story, was the time to plop in this rather lighthearted quest?

And, as for the “for the most part,” the slave thing had no business whatsoever being in there. If you’re going to do this silly of a quest, with a guy named Testikles for crissake, do not have even the opportunity to condemn someone into slavery! Just don’t! I’m all for Weighty Game Choices but do not put a Weighty Game Choice in a bit where you’re trying to do something for a dude names Testikles!

We COULD talk on how we both chose to do what we did, and, at least in my case, I never even gave him the oil and he died and I condemned someone for nothing and I’m terrible and thought provoking themes, but there’s a time and a place for that and the time and place is NOT in a quest about a dude named Testikles!

This all annoyed me. Doubly so in that, had it been somewhere else in the game and not had the slave, it would have been pretty great.

Not just what quests are, it’s where they are in the game.

As for the play….man, I agonized over this quest. I put SO much thought into the three actors (I wound up with the real captain, destroying the poison supplies and telling the guy to be brave despite the witch, and hiring the rather hippie Hedonist), but MAN I thought it through. I really wanted this guy’s play to be good! And then, during the play, I reloaded after doubting my choices in the first scene. Twice.

I said the first two lines his way, as I thought “Maybe they’ll think it’s a comedy,” and the last line my way cuz that was a line for the people! Still didn’t go over well.

I found it very interesting that Kassandra seemed pained having to say it all wrong.

But man the themes! All about claiming your own story. We talked a ways back about how families themselves are built on, what did I say, something along the lines of “bullshit that works.” Myths. Stories. We talked on how, in this game, when we challenge the bullshit with the truth (think Supideo), bad things happen. Here, we see Kassandra’s family bullshit being challenged, not with the truth, but with OTHER bullshit. Her probably wrongish story being supplanted with something that’s (probably) horribly wrong, even silly, and she just can’t have that. That’s a pretty cool variation on theme.

And I wonder why I was so into making the play good. I thought, when I was doing it, that I wanted the guy, the playwright, to be happy. But after, I’m not so sure. Maybe it was for Kassandra’s story, but maybe it’s because keeping a “real” family story rather pristine is something that we, or most of us, try to do ourselves.

Good stuff.

It’s so great when we play the same stuff.

Feminina:

I see what you mean. Hm. I do. I actually thought the Testikles bit was kind of interesting, though, and was maybe getting at a bit more than just being a funny aside.

Because remember we were just discussing how Kassandra feels about Sparta, and how we feel about Sparta, and how the game seems to be going “WOO SPARTA!!!!” at us even though Kassandra doesn’t really seem to feel that way, and now…Testikles at one point literally yells “WOO SPARTA!” I mean, I saw it in the subtitles and thought “wow, this is what we were talking about.”

He IS that guy. He is the champion of the nation. He is–apparently–really good at pankration! He’s a drunken oaf and kind of an idiot, but he’s good at this sport and so, in some important way, he represents the entire nation of Sparta to itself as well as to the Greek world.

And I feel like there’s something intentional in that, in the fact that THIS is who we choose to represent us? This is the glory of Sparta?

And it’s also, obviously, kind of saying something about athletics and how weird it is that even today athletes who may be drunken oafs and idiots (thought obviously many are admirable people) are chosen to represent us because they’re good at some sport. (I wonder if maybe there’s also a tiny jab in there about “I may be sitting around playing a video game instead of being a huge powerful jock, but at least I’m not a drunken oaf!” Not that elite athletes don’t also play video games these days, because I’m sure they do.)

And the weird jerkiness of the tone, the having to condemn someone to slavery for the sake of this idiot because he’s the glory of Sparta, and then him dying in a stupid accident that’s also kind of funny, well…national glory is often built on the backs of the less fortunate, isn’t it? And sports are tragic and awful as well as funny and glorious, aren’t they?

So I’m not sure it entirely succeeds, but I really feel like this section was trying to say something about that whole notion of national glory and what a weird, kind of unpleasant thing it can be, even though it’s all in good fun, or made to seem like it’s all in good fun.

Butch:

Hmm. Good point. I guess I was so distracted by the such over the top silliness (Seriously, game, Testikles?) that I kinda missed that.

But if that is what the game is doing, then what’s the larger metaphor? That this admiration of discipline and physical might and violence is oafish and idiotic? That over the top dude bro “THIS IS SPARTA!” machismo is a joke? I’m not sure the game is going there, per se. It certainly has held a lot of big macho dudes up as heroes (shit, the player would be if they played as Alexios), and scorned those that are less than big and macho (Markos wasn’t particularly sympathetic). Are you going to make the argument in the blue quest with the two brothers that the kind, thoughtful (Athenian in practice) one was more sympathetic than the one who tried and failed to be a soldier?

Because I’m not sure we’re being set up for a switcheroo, all “HA turns out those erudite asses in Athens were right all along!” Leonidas is being portrayed in an unflinchingly positive light. Brave, strong, anti-cult soldier, generally awesome. The game is obviously putting him on a pedestal, and he’s Spartan.

Hmm. Remember that screenshot I sent you of all those exclamation points? Well, turns out that’s where the Olympics is gonna be, and those exclamation points all seem to have something to do with it. I have a feeling we’re gonna talk. Later.

Hmm. You’re starting to convince me. But let’s put this on the back burner until we do the Olympics, cuz I have a feeling this will come into sharper focus then.

What are your thoughts on the play?

Feminina:

No, no, I’m not really thinking it’s going to get to the end and be all “AH HA! We’re not actually saying physical prowess is cool at all! We’ve spent the entire game letting you glory in being a mighty and physically powerful warrior, but now we’re telling you that’s all crap!”

I highly doubt it will do anything of the sort.

I just think it’s trying to slightly complicate our uncritical acceptance of the whole thing. Which is sort of trying to have it both ways, giving us an entire game of glorious physical prowess and ALSO kind of saying that glorifying physical prowess isn’t the smartest approach to everything, but that’s familiar in this medium.

Like how Lara Croft and Uncharted kind of occasionally made us think a little bit about the ethics of treasure hunting and looting ancient cultures, even though every single game was entirely dedicated to treasure hunting and culture-looting.

I saw the many golden exclamation points in Olympos! We’re definitely going to be talking to some people. Each of whom will probably have three things for us to do. It’s going to be great, and we’re gonna love it.

The play…I had the actual soldier play the soldier, and got the Hedone to come back and perform. I killed the witch for the other guy, and he felt better.

There was probably a specific combination of actions and lines (and possibly, wine–I got the cheap stuff because the fort was farther away and I’d already been there) that would have resulted in the audience loving the play, but…enh. “We barely got out of there without a fight!” Kassandra observed, and that sounds like the kind of review I want for my theatrical performances from now on.

As you say, it was an interesting commentary on Kassandra’s relationship to her family history, and to the idea of teaching/presenting history for a general audience. What parts of this story are important for everyone in Greece to know about their shared history? What parts are important to know because they’re about the might of Sparta?

Thespis–and Kassandra–seemed to be very interested in presenting it as a tale of universal interest: this isn’t just about Sparta, it’s about all Hellas! This is for the glory of the Greek world! And she did seem very enthusiastic about it when she agreed to do it: “I WILL play Leonidas!” as if that was a good thing, a fine and noble role to play.

Maybe we just didn’t quite get that point across to our audiences.

I also enjoyed the play, as usual when they do this kind of memory/choice thing rather than just diving into a big fight. It was kind of fun to see everyone with their big dramatic masks on, and to pick the lines. I would have done it again for a matinee showing the next day to see if we could perfect the show after some understandable opening-night jitters–but alas, that was not an option. Hopefully once Thespis’ toe healed and he could take on the role himself, he did better with it.

Butch:

Ooo you missed something! WHICH Hedone did you convince to be in the show? You had two choices! There was the hippie guy and the goat guy!

Feminina:

The hippie guy. I talked to four dudes, and he seemed the most plausible. If I missed a dude…so be it.

Butch:

Ah. There were five dudes. Three who were obviously not it, the hippie guy and the goat guy. He’s this clean cut, plain guy. You say “How would you make them laugh?” and he says “I’d slip on a goat bladder. Works every time.” “How would you make them cry?” “I’d tell them about losing my goat. Works every time.”

Then you can pick him or the hippie. I picked the hippie.

Weird we did different things with the supplies/witch and it didn’t seem to matter much. Huh.

And also funny that I really CARED about this quest and you kinda didn’t. I seriously reloaded twice cuz I wanted it to be good. It still wasn’t. But shit, I don’t reload when likable characters die, but I wanted to get this right.

You do not seem to have had the same reaction.

Feminina:

I dunno, man. I wanted to get it right, but I was also prepared to live with the consequences of getting it wrong. I mean, it’s not as if my poor decision resulted in the city being burned to the ground or anything. It was just a play! I’ve made poor decisions with much worse outcomes, that’s for sure.

And as you say, I generally don’t reload then, so I wasn’t about to do it now. Especially not when I was so desperate to catch up to you! Ha. Not so desperate that I didn’t check out every question mark in the surrounding hills, of course.

Butch:

I know we usually leave victims of our questionable decisions in our wake! I do it all the time! Which is why I have no idea why I wasn’t all “Pfft. Play. Whatever.”

But I wasn’t. I genuinely cared about this and I have no idea why. I’m not even that invested in this game, man!

I’ll continue to ponder.

But I played! Finished up with the “Kassandra as God” quest, then toodled off to the Temple of Zeus (that’s where the Olympics are!) and did a side quest that didn’t have fuck all to do with the Olympics, but was themey.

Progress! Or something.

Feminina:

Progress!

Let’s just go with progress. We’ll get to the Olympics in time.

Did you do another blue quest around here? The ‘flame still burns’ or something? I saw it over in the mountains, but didn’t manage to run all the way out there yet.

Butch:

Nah, that’s in Attika. I figure I’ll get to that when I actually go to Attika for the main story. Which’ll be a while.

Though, and if this is a spoiler don’t tell me, but, in doing that “Kassandra is a god” thing, when I had to go to Attika to go the the priestess’ cave, as soon as I crossed the border BOOM massive bounty. Then I left and BOOM bounty cleared.

The fuck is that? There wasn’t even anything to pay off.

Also did you get the weirdness during all that, that quest that popped but for a limited time? I was clearing something out of a cave for someone. There was swimming involved. I killed a bunch of random bandits and a quest popped. “Huh?” said I. I check, and the quest was “Maybe it was luck, or maybe Kassandra was feeling particularly violent that day, but she killed some blah blah blah” and the objective was “Collect your reward.” But what was REALLY weird is that it was timed. I had 19 hours to do it.

So, what, did I accidentally do a timed quest? Did that happen to you?

Cuz I went to “collect my reward” and it’s this athlete all “There is a place I train…you’d like it….but there are bandits….” And I’m all “Oh…did that….” and she paid me. But it was timed!

Feminina:

That did happen to me! Crossing the border into Attika, major bounty, going back it’s gone. Apparently someone in Attika doesn’t like me.

And yes, I also killed some bandits and accidentally completed a quest! Probably the same ones. It’s happened a few times before, so I think it’s just if you’re in the neighborhood of someone who would give you a timed quest if you talked to them (which you obviously don’t), and you happen to do the thing they want, you get ‘success’ on it and have however much time until it ends to go collect your reward.

Hey, free money for something I was clearly going to do anyway! I’m into it.